CCNet 115/2003 - 3 December 2003

A senior Kremlin official declared Tuesday that Russia would not ratify the
international treaty requiring cuts in the emissions of gases linked to global
warming, delivering what could be a fatal blow to years of diplomatic efforts.
The official, Andrei N. Illarionov, said in remarks to reporters and in a
subsequent interview that President Vladimir V. Putin had told a group of
European businessmen on Tuesday that the treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol,
ran counter to Russia's national interests.
      --Steven Lee Myers and Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, 3 December 2003

A number of questions have been raised about the link between carbon dioxide
and climate change, which do not appear convincing. And clearly it sets very
serious brakes on economic growth which do not look justified.
     --Andrei N. Illarionov, The New York Times, 3 December 2003

We seem, in other words, to be in trouble. Either we lay hands on every available
source of fossil fuel, in which case we fry the planet and civilisation collapses,
or we run out, and civilisation collapses. The only rational response to both the
impending end of the oil age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our
cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political
pressure, and our problem is that no one ever rioted for austerity.
      --George Monbiot, The Guardian, 2 December 2003

    Environmental News Network, 3 December 2003

    The New York Times, 3 November 2003

    Andrew Yee <>

    CO2 Science Magazine, 3 December 2003

    The Guardian, 2 December 2003

    Paal Brekke <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    U.N. Wire, 2 December 2003


Environmental News Network, 3 December 2003

By Oliver Bullough and Robin Pomeroy, Reuters

MOSCOW/BRUSSELS - Russia dealt a new blow to a U.N. plan to curb global warming Tuesday as even European Union supporters of the landmark pact admitted backsliding.

A senior Russian official said Moscow, left with an effective veto over the entire Kyoto Protocol after the United States pulled out in 2001, could not accept the 1997 plan in its current form.

"The Kyoto Protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," Andrei Illarionov, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin on economic issues, told reporters in Moscow. "Of course, in its current form, this protocol cannot be ratified," he said. He did not spell out what changes might bring a yes from the Russian parliament.

The United Nations, hosting 180-nation climate talks in Milan, Italy, from Dec. 1 to 12 to work out details of Kyoto, said one official's views did not amount to a formal rejection by Moscow. Illarionov is a leading Kyoto skeptic in Russia.

Environmentalists dismissed the remarks as bluster before Sunday's elections to the Russian Duma, which formally has the final say over Kyoto in Russia.

"While Illarionov's opinion will sound like music to the ears of the U.S. administration, it's far too early to be reading the funeral notice of the Kyoto Protocol," Greenpeace's Stephen Guilbeault said.

Russia holds the key because Kyoto can only enter into force if it is ratified by nations accounting for 55 percent of developed countries' emissions of carbon dioxide. Kyoto has reached 44 percent, making Russia's 17 percent a crucial vote after the United States, the world's No. 1 polluter, pulled out its 36 percent stake.

E.U. Slips

In what could be a more serious setback, the E.U. Commission said only Sweden and Britain of the E.U.'s 15 member states were on track to meet the E.U.'s Kyoto goals.

Kyoto aims to curb emissions of gases like carbon dioxide spewed from power plants and cars that are blamed for blanketing the planet and driving up global temperatures. The E.U. has agreed to cut emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012.

In the E.U. rankings, Spain was at the bottom, with Denmark, Austria, Belgium, and Ireland also lagging badly.

E.U. nations have been among the leading proponents of Kyoto along with Japan, blaming human-induced global warming for triggering more frequent catastrophes like heat waves, floods, or tornadoes and for melting ice that could raise sea levels.

"Unless more is done, the E.U. as a whole and the majority of its member states will miss their Kyoto targets," Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said. "This is serious. Time is running out."

She said she had written to member states to urge them to take new measures. Kyoto aims to promote a shift to renewable energies like wind, solar, or hydrogen power while encouraging the closure of fossil-fuel smokestacks.

Under Kyoto, countries could buy or sell the right to pollute depending on whether their emissions were higher or lower than envisaged.

Many economists argue Moscow stands to gain from Kyoto because Russia's Soviet-era industries have collapsed, leaving it with spare emissions quotas that could be worth billions of dollars.

In Milan, officials brushed aside Illarionov's skepticism.

"This is a senior adviser to the president; it is not a formal rejection like we saw with America," said Michael Williams, a U.N. climate talks spokesman. "We remain optimistic that ... Russia will ratify."

Two months ago, Putin backed away from Moscow's previous promises to ratify soon. He said a warmer climate might benefit Russian farming and could help people save money on fur coats in winter.

Copyright 2003, Reuters


The New York Times, 3 November 2003


MOSCOW, Dec. 2 - A senior Kremlin official declared Tuesday that Russia would not ratify the international treaty requiring cuts in the emissions of gases linked to global warming, delivering what could be a fatal blow to years of diplomatic efforts.

The official, Andrei N. Illarionov, said in remarks to reporters and in a subsequent interview that President Vladimir V. Putin had told a group of European businessmen on Tuesday that the treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol, ran counter to Russia's national interests.

"We shall not ratify," said Mr. Illarionov, the senior Kremlin adviser on economic affairs and an outspoken critic of the treaty, apparently ending more than a year of uncertainty about Russia's position.

The treaty, completed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 after two years of intense diplomatic wrangling, would require major industrialized countries, as a group, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. By 2012, the countries would have to reduce the gases by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels.

While 120 countries have ratified the treaty, it can take effect only when approved by enough countries to account for 55 percent of 1990 emissions from the industrialized world. Without Russia or the United States, that threshold cannot be met. In 1990, the United States accounted for 36.1 percent of emissions, and Russia for 17.4 percent.

Russia signed the treaty in 1997, as the United States did under President Bill Clinton, and expressed support for it until about a year ago. The Bush administration rejected the pact, essentially giving Russia veto power over its enactment.

Barring a reversal by Russia, the treaty appears all but dead, leaving uncertain the future of international cooperation on the question of global warming.

Russian officials had increasingly voiced concerns about the economic costs of curtailing such emissions, which come mainly from burning fossil fuels. They had also questioned whether the warming was caused by human activities and, even if it was, whether it posed any great risks.

But this was the first time a seemingly unequivocal statement rejecting the treaty has been made by a top official citing Mr. Putin.

"A number of questions have been raised about the link between carbon dioxide and climate change, which do not appear convincing," Mr. Illarionov said in the interview. "And clearly it sets very serious brakes on economic growth which do not look justified."

Echoing President Bush and many in Congress, Russia has also complained that major polluters like China and India are not bound by the treaty, giving them an unfair economic advantage. But mostly, experts say, Russia is bothered by its declining financial return from joining the treaty.

After the collapse of Soviet-era industry, Russia's emission of gases fell to an estimated 30 percent below 1990 levels. But its Kyoto target for 2012 was its 1990 levels - meaning it already far exceeded its required reductions. Thus, Russia stood to gain financially from selling credits that would allow other countries to exceed the treaty's limits. Some major Russian industries lobbied for the protocol, seeing it as a way to use the credits to modernize aging plants.

Without the participation of the United States - which would have been a major buyer of credits - many officials here concluded that the potential economic gains were sharply reduced. With the Russian economy increasingly reliant on oil and gas production and exports, the officials concluded that the treaty's limits could become a drag on economic growth in the future.

Some independent analysts agreed that there was now little economic incentive in the treaty for Russia. "Their stake has been transformed from tens of billions of dollars over five years to tens of millions, if that," said Prof. David G. Victor of Stanford University, an expert on the treaty.

The Russian statements reverberated on Tuesday in Milan, where hundreds of delegates from around the world were in the second day of a two-week meeting on the pact and an underlying 1992 climate treaty that contains no binding provisions.

Some participants said Russia's apparent retreat necessitated a re-appraisal of the Kyoto-style approach, which requires prompt emissions curbs in wealthy countries while excusing all developing countries from obligations.

But some environmentalists and European and United Nations officials said they remained hopeful that Mr. Illarionov's remarks did not reflect Russia's official position.

"This is just the latest statement in a long line of predictions by Illarionov which have failed to eventuate," said Aleksei Kokorin, the head of climate change programs in Russia for the World Wildlife Fund. "He opposed the Russian energy strategy, which was then adopted in May."

Jos Delbeke, who leads the climate change unit of the European Commission, noted that Russia stood to lose the chance for big new investments by Western European countries in improving its power plants, pipelines and other facilities as part of what are called joint implementation projects under the treaty.

"Our private sector is lining up for this," he said. "It seems against the interests of Russia not to go into these."

But it would be highly unusual for the government to have left Mr. Illarionov's remarks - which were carried by the official Russian Information Agency, a state propaganda arm - uncorrected if they were not representative of its position.

His statements brushed aside impassioned appeals from the United Nations and from countries, especially in Europe, that have embraced the protocol as the best way to reduce emissions that many scientists link to harmful climate change.

If Russia's rejection is indeed final, countries could proceed independently with projects to curb emissions or enter into new talks toward ways to spur international efforts, experts said. The European Union has said that, with or without the protocol, it will proceed in 2005 with a trading plan allowing member states to reach targets by investing in emissions-curbing projects in other states. But the overall effect would almost assuredly be to delay any significant new initiatives to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Although the Russian statements appeared to align Russia with the American position on the treaty, Bush administration officials declined to comment Tuesday. Previously, administration officials have said they have not urged Russia to join in rejecting the pact.

But senior administration officials have been using the new round of climate talks to strongly criticize the Kyoto treaty and promote their alternate vision of how to deal with climate change. In several statements in recent days, American officials said that the science pointing to risks remained murky and that the only way to solve the problem was with long-term research on new nonpolluting energy options.

Many climate experts have concluded that there is ample evidence that substantial increases in concentrations of the gases could disrupt ecosystems, storm patterns and agriculture in many parts of the world.

Despite having rejected the Kyoto Protocol, the administration sent more than 60 officials to Milan - one of the largest American delegations ever to the climate-treaty talks - to promote alternative approaches to curbing emissions growth.

The protocol is an outgrowth of the first international climate treaty, the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, which committed industrialized nations to work voluntarily to avoid "dangerous" interference with the climate system, but never defined "dangerous."

After signers in 1995 recognized that emissions were continuing to grow, negotiations began toward a binding agreement, culminating in 1997 with the current protocol. The targets for individual countries varied depending on their contribution to the problem, and intensive bargaining was aimed at being sure no country was getting too great a competitive advantage.

As recently as last year, President Putin indicated Russia's willingness to ratify the accord. Since then, however, he and other officials have wavered and stalled, raising questions about whether the country stood to benefit from ratification, especially without the participation of the United States and without mandatory limits on developing countries.

At a climate conference in Moscow in September, Mr. Putin said Russia remained committed to addressing climate change, but he also shocked many conferees with a quip suggesting global warming could benefit a country hardened by its harsh winters. "We shall save on fur coats and other warm things," he said.

Steven Lee Myers reported from Moscow and Andrew C. Revkin from New York.

Copyright 2003, The New York Times


Andrew Yee <>

Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
National Science Foundation
Arlington, Virginia

Media contacts:
Cheryl Dybas, NSF
(703) 292-7734,

Anatta, NCAR
(303) 497-8604,

Program contact:
Jay Fein
(703) 292-8527,

December 2, 2003

NSF PR 03-129

Top Scientists Conclude Human Activity is Affecting Global Climate

Arlington, Va. -- Two of the nation's best-known atmospheric scientists, after
reviewing extensive research by their colleagues, say there is no doubt human
activities are having measurable -- and increasing -- impacts on global climate.
Results of the study, which appears in the December 5th issue of the journal
Science as part of a "State of the Planet" assessment, cites atmospheric
observations and multiple computer models to paint a detailed picture of the
climate changes likely to buffet Earth in coming decades, including rising
temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events such as flooding.

Thomas Karl of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and
Kevin Trenberth, director of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center
for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., conclude that industrial
emissions have been the dominant influence behind climate change for the past 50
years, overwhelming natural forces. The most important of these emissions is
carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps solar radiation and warms the
planet. Trenberth's research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF),
the independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education
across all fields of science and engineering.

"There is no doubt the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of
human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on
global climate," they write. "The likely result is more frequent heat waves,
droughts, extreme precipitation events, and related impacts, e.g., wildfires,
heat stress, vegetation changes, and sea-level rise which will be regionally

"Many important climate research accomplishments over the past several decades
have led to major improvements in understanding and predicting our climate,"
said Jay Fein, director of NSF's climate dynamics program. "Karl and Trenberth
summarize those accomplishments in terms of what we have learned about our
climate and the many factors that force it. As they point out, however, there
still remain important uncertainties, both in terms of climate forcing and
climate response. Addressing the uncertainties will require continuing research
and model development, underpinned by high-quality, long-term global
environmental observations and social and economic data."

Karl and Trenberth estimate that, between 1990 and 2100, global temperatures
will rise by 1.7 C to 4.9 C (3.1 F-8.9 F). The increase would have widespread
impacts on society and the environment, including melting the great ice sheets
of Greenland and Antarctica and inundating the world's coasts. The authors base
their estimate on computer model experiments by a number of climate scientists,
observations of atmospheric changes and recorded climate changes over the past

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen by 31 percent since
pre-industrial times -- from 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to over 370
ppmv today. Other human activities, such as emissions of sulfate and soot
particles and the development of urban areas, have significant but more
localized climate impacts. Such activities sometimes cause temperatures to rise
or fall, but not by enough to offset the impact of greenhouse gases.

If societies successfully cut emissions and stabilized carbon dioxide levels in
the atmosphere, temperatures would still increase by an estimated 0.5 C over a
period of decades, Karl and Trenberth warn. This is because greenhouse gases are
slow to cycle out of the atmosphere. "Given what has happened to date and is
projected in the future, significant further climate change is guaranteed," the
authors state.

If current emissions continue, the world would face the fastest rate of climate
change in at least the past 10,000 years. This could potentially alter ocean
current circulations and radically change existing climate patterns. Moreover,
certain natural processes would likely accelerate the warming. As snow cover
melts away, for example, the darker land and water surface would absorb more
solar radiation, further increasing temperatures.

Karl and Trenberth say more research is needed to pin down both the global and
regional impacts of climate change. Scientists have yet to determine the
temperature impacts of increased cloud cover or how changes in the atmosphere
will influence El Nino, the periodic warming of Pacific Ocean waters that
affects weather patterns throughout much of the world. The authors call for
multiple computer model studies to address the complex aspects of weather and
climate. The models must be able to integrate all components of Earth's climate
system -- physical, chemical and biological. This, in turn, will require
considerable international cooperation and establishment of a global climate
monitoring system to collect data.

"Climate change is truly a global issue, one that may prove to be humanity's
greatest challenge," the authors conclude.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that
supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and
engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.3 billion. NSF funds reach all
50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each
year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes
about 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $200 million in
professional and service contracts yearly.


CO2 Science Magazine, 3 December 2003

Climate alarmists such as O'Neill and Oppenheimer (2002) regularly invoke the mere possibility of an abrupt-and-rapid warming resulting from the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 concentration as sufficient reason to implement the Kyoto Protocol.  Since almost anything is possible, however, it makes much more sense to consider an event's likelihood when trying to decide what to do about it. One good way of doing this within the context of potential global warming is to see how often rapid climatic changes have occurred in the past and under what circumstances they occurred, especially with respect to the air's CO2 content.  Hence, we take this tack in the following paragraphs.
Staufer et al. (1998) derived a common timescale for earth's last glacial period based on records of atmospheric methane concentrations obtained from Greenland and Antarctica, which they then used to compare climatic oscillations inferred from Greenland ice cores with variations in atmospheric CO2 concentration inferred from Antarctic ice cores.  Doing so, they documented a number of rapid warmings of several degrees Centigrade that were followed by slower coolings that returned the climate to full glacial conditions, over which entire cycle the air's CO2 concentration typically varied by less than 10 ppm.  Furthermore, the weak correspondence between the two parameters was considered to have been caused by the change in climate, rather than by the change in CO2, suggesting that variations in atmospheric CO2 concentration had absolutely nothing to do with the large and abrupt warming events.

Rahmstorf (2003) analyzed the GISP2 ice core record from Greenland with respect to the timing of Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) warm events, finding these abrupt climate changes "appear to be paced by a 1,470-year cycle with a period that is probably stable to within a few percent."  With 95% confidence, for example, the period is maintained to better than 12% over at least 23 cycles during the time interval of 51 to 10 thousand years before present.  In fact, Rahmstorf reports that "the five most recent events, arguably the best-dated ones, have a standard deviation of only 32 years (2%)."  This finding, in his words, "strongly supports the idea that the events are paced by a regular 1,470 year cycle," and he says that "the highly precise clock points to an origin outside the Earth system," which once again lets CO2 off the hook as being the cause of the warmings.

On a much finer timescale, Overpeck and Webb (2000) discuss what we know about the abrupt-and-rapid climatic variability associated with the ENSO phenomenon during the current interglacial or Holocene.  They note that shifts in ENSO frequency during this period occurred at both interannual and multidecadal intervals, providing evidence that "ENSO may change in ways that we do not yet understand," but which are clearly not related to atmospheric CO2 concentration.  In fact, they say data from corals suggest that "interannual ENSO variability, as we now know it, was substantially reduced, or perhaps even absent," during the middle of the Holocene, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations were not much different from what they were immediately before or after that period.

Moving slightly closer to the present, Rietti-Shati et al. (1998) derived a 3,000-year climatic history for a high-altitude region on Mount Kenya in East Africa for the period 4200-1200 years before present via oxygen isotope analysis of biogenic opal extracted from a sediment core retrieved from a shallow lake.  Among numerous small temperature fluctuations, they detected a significant warming that occurred between 2,300 and 2,000 years ago, when temperatures rose approximately 4°C in just three centuries, consistent with other proxy temperature records of Mount Kenya's surroundings.  Again, however, there were no dramatic fluctuations of atmospheric CO2 concentration associated with this event.

In China, Yafeng et al. (1999) analyzed high-resolution records of ð18O obtained from the Guliya ice cap of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to derive a 2000-year temperature history of that part of the world.  Perhaps their most striking discovery was the identification of 33 abrupt climatic shifts on the order of 3°C that took place over the course of two or three decades, among which were "several large ones," including a 7°C decrease between 250 and 280 AD and a 7°C increase between 550 and 580 AD, when, of course, the air's CO2 concentration was low and unchanging.
Schuster et al. (2000) employed electrical conductivity measurements, scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive analysis, and isotopic and chemical analyses to study a 160-meter ice core removed from Wyoming's Upper Fremont Glacier, finding, in their words, that "the termination of the Little Ice Age was abrupt with a major climatic shift to warmer temperatures around 1845 A.D."  They also note that "a conservative estimate for the time taken to complete the Little Ice Age climatic shift to present-day climate is about 10 years," over which period the atmosphere's CO2 concentration rose by about 1 ppm.

Last of all, we note the study of Cronin et al. (2000), who studied the salinity gradient across sediment cores from Chesapeake Bay, which is the largest estuary in the United Sates, in an effort to examine, not temperature, but precipitation variability over the past thousand years.  A high degree of decadal and multidecadal variability between wet and dry conditions was noted throughout the record, where regional precipitation totals fluctuated by 25 to 30%, often in extremely rapid shifts occurring over about a decade.

These several observations demonstrate that abrupt-and-rapid climate changes have occurred numerous times in the past, all without any help from changes in the air's CO2 content.  In fact, there is no conclusive evidence that any such climate changes have ever been produced by either increases or decreases in atmospheric CO2 concentration such as are capable of being produced by the actions of man.  Hence, to suggest we must ratify the Kyoto Protocol to protect the planet from another such abrupt-and-rapid climate change seems highly irrational.

Cronin, T., Willard, D., Karlsen, A., Ishman, S., Verardo, S., McGeehin, J., Kerhin, R., Holmes, C., Colman, S. and Zimmerman, A.  2000.  Climatic variability in the eastern United States over the past millennium from Chesapeake Bay sediments.  Geology 28: 3-6.

O'Neill, B.C. and Oppenheimer, M.  2002.  Dangerous climate impacts and the Kyoto Protocol.  Science 296: 1971-1972.

Overpeck, J. and Webb, R.  2000.  Nonglacial rapid climate events: Past and future.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 97: 1335-1338.

Rahmstorf, S.  2003.  Timing of abrupt climate change: A precise clock.  Geophysical Research Letters 30: 10.1029/2003GL017115.

Rietti-Shati, M., Shemesh, A. and Karlen, W.  1998.  A 3000-year climatic record from biogenic silica oxygen isotopes in an equatorial high-altitude lake.  Science 281: 980-982.

Schuster, P.F., White, D.E., Naftz, D.L. and Cecil, L.D.  2000.  Chronological refinement of an ice core record at Upper Fremont Glacier in south central North America.  Journal of Geophysical Research 105: 4657-4666.

Staufer, B., Blunier, T., Dallenbach, A., Indermuhle, A., Schwander, J., Stocker, T.F., Tschumi, J., Chappellaz, J., Raynaud, D., Hammer, C.U. and Clausen, H.B.  1998.  Atmospheric CO2 concentration and millennial-scale climate change during the last glacial period.  Nature 392: 59-62.

Yafeng, S., Tandong, Y. and Bao, Y.  1999.  Decadal climatic variations recorded in Guliya ice core and comparison with the historical documentary data from East China during the last 2000 years.  Science in China Series D-Earth Sciences 42 Supp.: 91-100.

Copyright © 2003.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change 


The Guardian, 2 December 2003,3604,1097622,00.html

George Monbiot

The oil industry is buzzing. On Thursday, the government approved the development of the biggest deposit discovered in British territory for at least 10 years. Everywhere we are told that this is a "huge" find, which dispels the idea that North Sea oil is in terminal decline. You begin to recognise how serious the human predicament has become when you discover that this "huge" new field will supply the world with oil for five and a quarter days.

Every generation has its taboo, and ours is this: that the resource upon which our lives have been built is running out. We don't talk about it because we cannot imagine it. This is a civilisation in denial.

Oil itself won't disappear, but extracting what remains is becoming ever more difficult and expensive. The discovery of new reserves peaked in the 1960s. Every year we use four times as much oil as we find. All the big strikes appear to have been made long ago: the 400m barrels in the new North Sea field would have been considered piffling in the 1970s. Our future supplies depend on the discovery of small new deposits and the better exploitation of big old ones. No one with expertise in the field is in any doubt that the global production of oil will peak before long.

The only question is how long. The most optimistic projections are the ones produced by the US department of energy, which claims that this will not take place until 2037. But the US energy information agency has admitted that the government's figures have been fudged: it has based its projections for oil supply on the projections for oil demand, perhaps in order not to sow panic in the financial markets.

Other analysts are less sanguine. The petroleum geologist Colin Campbell calculates that global extraction will peak before 2010. In August, the geophysicist Kenneth Deffeyes told New Scientist that he was "99% confident" that the date of maximum global production will be 2004. Even if the optimists are correct, we will be scraping the oil barrel within the lifetimes of most of those who are middle-aged today.

The supply of oil will decline, but global demand will not. Today we will burn 76m barrels; by 2020 we will be using 112m barrels a day, after which projected demand accelerates. If supply declines and demand grows, we soon encounter something with which the people of the advanced industrial economies are unfamiliar: shortage. The price of oil will go through the roof.
As the price rises, the sectors which are now almost wholly dependent on crude oil - principally transport and farming - will be forced to contract. Given that climate change caused by burning oil is cooking the planet, this might appear to be a good thing. The problem is that our lives have become hard-wired to the oil economy. Our sprawling suburbs are impossible to service without cars. High oil prices mean high food prices: much of the world's growing population will go hungry. These problems will be exacerbated by the direct connection between the price of oil and the rate of unemployment. The last five recessions in the US were all preceded by a rise in the oil price.

Oil, of course, is not the only fuel on which vehicles can run. There are plenty of possible substitutes, but none of them is likely to be anywhere near as cheap as crude is today. Petroleum can be extracted from tar sands and oil shale, but in most cases the process uses almost as much energy as it liberates, while creating great mountains and lakes of toxic waste. Natural gas is a better option, but switching from oil to gas propulsion would require a vast and staggeringly expensive new fuel infrastructure. Gas, of course, is subject to the same constraints as oil: at current rates of use, the world has about 50 years' supply, but if gas were to take the place of oil its life would be much shorter.

Vehicles could be run from fuel cells powered by hydrogen, which is produced by the electrolysis of water. But the electricity which produces the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. To fill all the cars in the US would require four times the current capacity of the national grid. Coal burning is filthy, nuclear energy is expensive and lethal. Running the world's cars from wind or solar power would require a greater investment than any civilisation has ever made before. New studies suggest that leaking hydrogen could damage the ozone layer and exacerbate global warming.
Turning crops into diesel or methanol is just about viable in terms of recoverable energy, but it means using the land on which food is now grown for fuel. My rough calculations suggest that running the United Kingdom's cars on rapeseed oil would require an area of arable fields the size of England.

There is one possible solution which no one writing about the impending oil crisis seems to have noticed: a technique with which the British and Australian governments are currently experimenting, called underground coal gasification. This is a fancy term for setting light to coal seams which are too deep or too expensive to mine, and catching the gas which emerges. It's a hideous prospect, as it means that several trillion tonnes of carbon which was otherwise impossible to exploit becomes available, with the likely result that global warming will eliminate life on Earth.

We seem, in other words, to be in trouble. Either we lay hands on every available source of fossil fuel, in which case we fry the planet and civilisation collapses, or we run out, and civilisation collapses.

The only rational response to both the impending end of the oil age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political pressure, and our problem is that no one ever rioted for austerity. People tend to take to the streets because they want to consume more, not less. Given a choice between a new set of matching tableware and the survival of humanity, I suspect that most people would choose the tableware.

In view of all this, the notion that the war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq (which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is actively developing a nuclear weapons programme and boasting of its intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had something it wanted. In one respect alone, Bush and Blair have been making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to secure the reserves of other nations.
I refuse to believe that there is not a better means of averting disaster than this. I refuse to believe that human beings are collectively incapable of making rational decisions. But I am beginning to wonder what the basis of my belief might be.

· The sources for this and all George Monbiot's recent articles can be found at


Paal Brekke <>

A timely eruption from the Sun today in in progress. Timely since today it is
8 years since the launch of SOHO. Images of todays eruption can be ssen here:

Since its launch on 2 December 1995, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
(SOHO) has provided an unparalleled breadth and depth of information about the
Sun, from its interior, through the hot and dynamic atmosphere, and out to the
solar wind.  SOHO has continued to revolutionize our understanding of the Sun
with its 24 hour per day observations of our daylight star.  The SOHO spacecraft
was nearly lost in space in 1998.  Thanks to one of the most amazing rescue
operations in space ever, the satellite is still in very good shape and
continues to deliver excellent science data.

The main objectives of the SOHO mission was to study the structure and dynamics
of the solar interior, the heating of the solar corona, and the acceleration of
the solar wind.  Five years later, science teams from around the world have made
great strides toward answering these "big three" questions.  At the same time,
SOHO's easily accessible, spectacular data and basic science results have
captured the imagination of the space science community and the general public
alike.  This presentation will summarize some of the scientific highlights and
illustrate how SOHO acts like a a watchdog for solar storms.  Furthermore,
accurate monitoring the energy output from the Sun is important for
understanding any natural valiability of the Earth's climate.

Dr. Paal Brekke,
SOHO Deputy Project Scientist  (European Space Agency - ESA)

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,   Email:
Mail Code 682.3, Bld. 26, Room 1,   Tel.:  1-301-286-6983/301 996 9028 (cell)
Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA.     Fax:   1-301-286-0264


Andrew Yee <>

ESA News

28 November 2003

Forest mapping from space supports Kyoto Protocol

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change delegations from across
the world meet in Milan next week to address the problem of global warming --
and ESA will be there to brief them on how space can assist in this task.

The official title of the gathering is the Ninth Session of the Conference of
the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC
COP 9). It is the latest in a series of UNFCCC meetings where signatories meet
to discuss various aspects of implementing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol as well as
settling on future actions to come.

ESA is hosting a side event on the evening of Wednesday 3 December at the
conference entitled Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) from Space:
Support to monitoring and reporting for Kyoto Protocol Annex I countries.

The Kyoto Protocol has only to be ratified by Russia in order to come into
force. It charges all developed nations -- known as Annex I countries -- to
monitor and work to reduce their overall carbon dioxide emissions.

A vital part of this is accurately measuring forested areas of their territory.
Forests function as reservoirs of carbon, so if countries plant new forests they
can gain 'carbon credits' to offset against their emissions. Conversely, extra
carbon dioxide is released rapidly into the atmosphere if forests are burnt or
cut down.

At the ESA COP 9 side event, ESA Director of Earth Observation José Achache will
brief attendees on using space to gather environmental intelligence, and
existing national users of ESA services will present their experiences.

ESA commenced working in the area of environmental conventions two years ago,
within activity known as Treaty Enforcement Services using Earth Observation
(TESEO). One of the projects initiated -- named TESEO Carbon -- studied the
potential of Earth Observation for supporting implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Three workshops, known as TUBES, gathered the convention secretariats and the
users of the TESEO projects in order to guide and consolidate the work of the
projects, which finished at the end of 2002 with a demonstration of some
prototype products and recommendations to ESA.

On the basis of these results, another project, Kyoto Inventory, started at the
end of last year with the aim of developing and demonstrating at a large scale
-- full or partial national coverage -- information services supporting the
national reporting under the Kyoto Protocol for five European countries: Italy,
Switzerland, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands.

The first results of this project for selected test sites within the five
countries are now ready. In parallel, another project called Forest Monitoring
initiated in early 2003 within ESA's programme devoted to Global Monitoring for
Environment Security (GMES) services and equally (although not exclusively)
addressing information services for the Kyoto Protocol reporting, has produced
its first results.

Four users of these last two projects will present at the side event their needs
and motivations, what the projects have provided to them so far, their
evaluations and their perspectives for the future.

Dimitri Lalas, Director of the National Observatory of Athens, and Deputy Head
of the Greek Delegation will commence the briefings, followed by José Romero of
the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape, then Antonio
Lumicisi of the Italian Ministry of Environment and Territory, concluding with
Joseph Racapé of France's Interministerial Task-Force for Climate Change.

Related articles

* ESA providing Kyoto estimates of French Guiana's tropical forests
* Earth observation finds a role in environmental treaties


U.N. Wire, 2 December 2003

Parts of the Brazilian Amazon forest might be emitting more carbon dioxide than is absorbed, Brazilian and U.S. scientists said in a study published Friday in the magazine Science, adding that previous studies on the issue probably overstated the amount of the gas absorbed by the forest.

During a three-year inquiry, researchers from Universidade de Sao Paulo, the National Institute of Space Research and Harvard University measured levels of emission and absorption of the gas in the National Forest of Tapajos, in Para, nothern Brazil.

The scientists found that carbon dioxide emissions actually increased during rainy seasons, when decomposing foliage, set off by a high degree of humidity, released their carbon-rich emissions into the air. Scientists had previously believed that emissions only increased during dry seasons (Reinaldo Jose Lopes, Folha de Sao Paulo, Nov. 28, U.N. Wire translation).

One of the main proposals of the Kyoto Protocol, which targets a decrease of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, is to slow deforestation and increase incentives for planting new forests.  According to BBC Brasil, the result of the latest study supports previous statements from some environmentalists that politicians developed the protocol based on the now dubious role forests play in cutting gas emissions (BBC Brasil, Nov. 28, U.N. Wire translation).

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Russia 'still open' to Kyoto pact <>

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

 Global temperature simulation<>
Kyoto aims to slow the move to a warmer world
Russia says it has not yet reached a decision on whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate treaty.
It has effectively disowned an official who only yesterday said Russia would not ratify, and it is still in the process of coming to a decision.
The official, Andrei Illarionov, said Russia would not ratify Kyoto in its present form, citing economic reasons.
The treaty cannot acquire the force of international law unless Russia, one of the world's big polluters, ratifies it.
Mr Illarionov, President Putin's chief adviser on economic issues, said in Moscow: "Of course, in its present form, this protocol cannot be ratified. It is impossible to undertake responsibilities that place serious limits on the country's growth."
But Russia's deputy economy minister, Mukhamed Tsikhanov, said the country was moving towards the treaty.
He said: "There are no decisions about ratification apart from the fact that we are moving towards ratification.
"I cannot comment on Illarionov, but we do not have any information in the government about the fact that a decision has been made."
US reluctance
The countries which have signed the United Nations Climate Change Convention, are meeting in the Italian city of Milan this week and next.
The protocol, negotiated to implement the convention, requires industrialised countries to cut their emissions of six gases which scientists believe are exacerbating natural climate change.
 Milan meeting, AFP<>
Signatories to Kyoto are currently meeting in Milan
Signatories will by some time between 2008 and 2012 have to cut emissions to 5.2% below their 1990 levels.
But many scientists say cuts of around 60-70% will be needed by mid-century to avoid runaway climate change.
The protocol will enter into force when 55 signatories have ratified it, including industrialised countries responsible for 55% of the developed world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990.
Some critics say President Bush's decision that the US, which emits more greenhouse gases than any other country, would not ratify the protocol has already condemned it to irrelevance.
But enough other signatories have done so for it to enter into force if Russia, another big polluter responsible for 17% of global emissions, does decide to ratify.

Copyright 2003, BBC
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail


Despite the obfuscations, Paul Martin served notice yesterday that his government may abandon Canada's commitment to implement the Kyoto accord fully.
Don't be shocked. Not only the United States, but Russia and most of Europe, are giving up on the treaty as well. Kyoto is not yet dead, but it is dying. And Mr. Martin wants to be sure that, if necessary, Canada can slip quietly away before the funeral.
With China and India not required to reduce emissions, and with the United States and Australia refusing to ratify the deal, the international treaty on reducing carbon dioxide emissions will not come into force unless Russia joins Europe, Japan and Canada in endorsing its provisions.
But a senior Russian official has revealed that the Putin administration is unwilling to sign the treaty on the grounds it could damage what passes for the Russian economy. And the European Union reported yesterday that 13 of its 15 members are failing to meet their Kyoto targets. Co2 emissions in Europe are actually increasing.
Jean Chrétien, this week's prime minister, told reporters that Canada should live up to its Kyoto commitments, whatever happens. But Mr. Martin, next week's prime minister, made it clear -- provided one employs a Universal Political Translator -- that he continues to have grave doubts.
"What we need is a plan," he said. "And that plan is going to determine our capacity to do so, our ability to do so and really what are the very important steps. And we have not yet developed that plan, certainly not to my satisfaction."
Translation: Unless someone can show me how we do this without wrecking the economy, I'm not on board.
This brings Mr. Martin back to the position he adopted when Mr. Chrétien first announced Canada would ratify the accord.
The Martin camp was furious that the PM would cavalierly commit Canada to ratification at an African conference, without any real consultation and without any idea of how to make the plan work. No wonder Alberta, Canada's principal producer of fossil fuels, went ballistic.
So Mr. Martin, who wants to make nice with the West, rumbled his concern while his advisers warned of dire consequences for the Canadian economy should Kyoto be implemented. But when the time came for Parliament to vote on ratification, Mr. Martin went along.
He hardly wanted to risk bringing down his own party's government over the issue of protecting the environment.
Since then, the Privy Council Office and the Environment Department have made progress in developing plans to help Canada meet its emission-reduction targets. And the big industries -- the heavy emitters, as they are called -- are reluctantly prepared to live with its provisions. But the plan is not complete. Much more severe reduction targets lie ahead.
And if Canada were to abide by its commitments while all its major competitors abandoned theirs, then we would be at a unique disadvantage.
That was why Mr. Martin raised his warning yesterday. As prime minister, he is not prepared to lop a point or two off GDP growth in a quixotic quest for environmental purity that the rest of the developed world has abandoned.
But he would never be so blunt. After all, most Canadians are worried about global warming and want Canada to do its part. If the Liberals were to reverse themselves on Kyoto before the next federal election, they would enrage the environmentalists and hand the NDP the wedge issue of their dreams.
So expect Mr. Martin to fudge, to obfuscate, to say, "Let's be perfectly clear," and then to be anything but. In other words, expect the sort of thing he said yesterday. But understand: Kyoto is on life support, not just in Russia, but here.
The situation is not terminal. According to senior officials, President Vladimir Putin and his most senior officials have repeatedly assured Canada in bilateral conversations that Russia will sign the accord. If so, these latest warnings from Moscow are simply a bargaining ploy to extract better terms.
If Russia does sign, and if Europe does somehow get its emission-reduction program back on track, then Mr. Martin will live up to Canada's Kyoto commitments. To do otherwise would subject this country to accusations that it has unilaterally abrogated an international treaty. We don't do things like that.
At this point, though, anyone prepared to bet that Canada will meet its Kyoto targets should be asking for odds of 10-to-1.

UK Public Sceptical of Kyoto Protocol

From International Policy Network

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Contact: Damian Nixon, +4420-7231-2132,
Kendra Okonski, +4477-3469 3068,

UK public sceptical of Kyoto Protocol

* 57% believe UK should not implement Kyoto if it will harm Britain's economy

70% believe that Britain should pursue alternative, less costly strategies

3 December 2003, London - A poll commissioned by International Policy Network, a London-based charity, and conducted by Populus, a UK-based polling firm*, shows that 57% of the British public believe that the UK should not implement the Kyoto Protocol if it causes economic harm and job losses. For young people, the figures are higher: 68% do not want to sacrifice Britain's jobs and economic growth to the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol has been widely touted as the world's solution to global warming. However, studies show that as Kyoto is implemented during 2008-2010, it is likely to harm Britain's economy by increasing the price of electricity, fuel and consumer goods, leading to slower economic growth and higher operating costs for employers, and causing job losses.**

The poll also reveals that the UK government should consider alternative, less costly approaches to global warming. 70% of people polled - and 75% of women polled - believe that if more cost-effective alternatives to Kyoto exist, Britain should pursue those strategies.

In light of this data, and decisions by the US, Australian and Russian governments not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, it is incumbent upon environment ministers meeting next week in Milan, Italy, (during the high-level ministerial of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP-9) to propose more cost-effective strategies to address global warming.

Kendra Okonski, Editor of Adapt or Die: The science, politics and economics of climate change (Profile Books, December 2003), comments, "By constraining our ability to grow and adapt, Kyoto will cause more harm to future generations than the global warming ever would. Britain's leaders should focus on policies that promote adaptation, rather than climate control."

Strategies to encourage adaptation, rather than climate control, could include:

Encouraging British investment in transferring more energy-efficient technologies to those countries whose economies produce the most carbon emissions, such as India and China.

Tax breaks for businesses on R&D of blue-skies research for new energy technologies.

Removing tariffs on less energy-intensive goods and services.

Specific measures to address negative impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather or sea level changes.

# # #
International Policy Network ( is a London-based charity which coordinates policy activities on the environment, health, trade and technology.
*Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,001 adults aged 18+ by telephone between November 28th-30th, 2003. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to be representative of all adults.
** "Kyoto Protocol and beyond: The economic cost to four European countries" (including the UK), DRI-WEFA study commissioned in 2002 by International Center for Capital Formation, . Study available at: <

For more information, contact:

Damian Nixon
Assistant Media Director
International Policy Network <>

CCCMENU CCC for 2003